Monday, 19 May 2008


I baked bread today! I've been making dough pretty often, but it never seems to end up as proper bread (only as mantou, dumplings, etc) so I thought I'd try my hand at bread.

I found a recipe somewhere online that I thought might work well, but the recipe was for a bread machine, so I had to adapt it on my own to suit my tastes and for hand-making (the "recipe" was just the ingredients. The instructions were "Put ingredients in bread machine and make as normal"). Also, I'd flavoured my bread with honey, which made the flesh of the bread quite sweet, but the crust turned out to be slightly bitter. Here is my recipe:

My Honey Bread

2 1/2 tsp dried yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tsp white sugar
1 tsp salt
3 cups bread flour
2 tsp olive oil (I used this because it was all I had. Use vegetable oil if you have it)
2 tbsp honey, more if you like it that way. I think I added the equivalent of 2 1/4 tbsp.

1) In a small bowl, pour in 4tbsp of the warm water. Sprinkle the sugar into it (dissolve as much as you can) then sprinkle the yeast over it and leave for 15 minutes until there is 1cm of foam above it. Actually, just follow your packet instructions. Mine said to whisk well before and after leaving it to activate, so I did.

2) While yeast is activating, put the salt and flour into a large bowl and mix together, then create a large well in the middle.

3) When the yeast is ready, pour the mixture, the remaining water and the rest of the ingredients into the well. TIP: If you use the same measuring spoon for the honey as you did for the oil, the honey will slide right off it. Remember not to scoop the honey out of the jar with that spoon, but to pour the honey onto it! Just fyi, 1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons.

4) Mix into a dough, then turn out onto a well-floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, and the dough springs back when you press it with a finger. Most recipes tell you to use a wooden spoon, but I usually just use my measuring spoon from the honey and mix it till the dough is solid-ish, then I'll turn it and the rest of the flour out onto my well-floured surface and start kneading and kneading till all the flour is incorporated.

5) Form a ball with the dough, then place it into a lightly greased bowl. Turn the ball so that its entire surface has a very light covering of oil. This is to prevent it from forming a skin while it rises.

6) Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel, then place the bowl in a warm drought-free area for about an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

7) Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead again for 2-3 minutes until the dough is back to its original size.

8) Form into a smooth ball, then place on a greased and floured baking tray. If you want to make this in a loaf tin, then divide the dough into two balls and place them into greased and floured loaf tins. I'm not actually sure if this will make one or two loaves, but I think it's probably only for one loaf.

9) Cover with the same tea towel, and leave in the same warm, drought-free area for 30 to 45 minutes until the dough has once again doubled in size. In the case of loaf tins, leave it to rise till the dough is 1cm over the top of the loaf tin. At the same time, preheat the oven to 200C.

10) When the dough has risen, slash it if you're doing it country-loaf style. I like to slash a short shallow X onto mine, as it turns the dough into a nice fat ball rather than a flat round. But if you like a flat round, slash a deep, long X into it. Alternatively, you can slash 4 parallel slashes onto the bread. If you like a more artisan look, sprinkle the dough with flour before baking. I haven't tried this, but I have read everywhere that if you like a crusty bread, spray the dough with mist-water just before you put it in the oven.

11) Bake your bread in the oven until it is done. I had to bake mine for 45 minutes, and even then it is barely cooked through!! My bet is that for this recipe, 55 minutes would be great. But it would be better for you to keep checking to see if it's done once at 30mins, then every 5-10 minutes thereafter. Check to see if it's done by tapping the bottom (use a teatowel that's been folded many times to hold the bread so that you don't scald your hands). If it sounds hollow, it's done. Another way of checking is to poke in a thermometer through the bottom of the bread and see if it comes up to 200C.

12) The moment you take your bread out of the oven, transfer it to a cooling rack so that the bottom of the bread doesn't sweat and make it all soggy. Leave it on the cooling rack for at least half an hour before digging into it - this prevents the bread from crumbing (or so I've heard. Doesn't make a difference to me!) and drying out too quicklyafter you've sliced it. Of course, if the hot bread just means you're going to finish it all in one sitting, then go ahead and cut straight into it!

Just a small warning: if your bread crust browns too quickly, like mine did, cover it loosely with aluminium foil, and carry on baking as normal. I'm lucky I remembered that little trick - I'd accidentally put the dough in the oven at 220C instead of 200C! I nearly panicked when I found that the bread looked cooked on the outside 10mins after I put the dough in.

The crust for this recipe is kinda soft (but tough) and chewy. It's perfect for me, because that's how I like it! But honestly? When you look at it, it looks as though it should be crusty and crunchy. So maybe I'll find a mist-sprayer someday and try to make a crusty bread.

Oh! I got James to try a slice with some honey on it. He said it was good, but then again to quote him, "I'll eat anything" :P So yeah. I never know if my cooking is actually good or not. But at least someone eats it! We also had a small discussion about yeast and what it does to bread and how much we use in a loaf of bread.

Great thing about making bread - it's so easy that after measuring everything, you can do it all mindlessly while studying at the same time! I was reviewing my study notes the whole time I was kneading. Just as I was making the warm water, my classmate Sumeyye called and she was frustrated about our exam on Tuesday because we don't have any past papers to look at! In the end, we both decided we'd just read the textbooks and wing it. The lecturer had mentioned that the exam will be like our courseworks, and those are mostly common sense. *sighs* This sucks...

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